A number of local politicians have reacted with ‘astonishment’ at the decision by the Department of Regional Development to award a £19m contract for the new Belfast Rapid Transit system to a company from Belgium.
TUV leader and North Antrim Assemblyman, Jim Allister contended: “The award is shameful considering that Wrightbus, a world leader on our doorstep, submitted a bid. Wrightbus have expressed their disappointment and claimed they could do it cheaper and deliver it a year early. Not only would this have led to a saving to the taxpayer, but also secured local jobs in Northern Ireland.
“Indeed, this comes literally weeks after Stormont claimed they would be seeking to help Ballymena after job losses in Michelin, but in reality they have overlooked a vibrant and successful local business.
“Wrightbus is a world leader, providing iconic buses to London and around the world. It is a kick in the teeth that when it comes to a local government contract our own companies are deemed surplus to requirements. Minister McIlveen and the DUP have some explaining to do.”
His party colleague, the Deputy Mayor of Mid and East Antrim borough Council, Cllr Timothy Gaston continued: “I was astonished when I heard the news that Wrightbus – one of the leading bus manufacturers in the world – was not awarded this local government contract, with it instead being awarded to a company from Belgium.
“After the loss of jobs from Michelin and JTI-Gallahers, Stormont has continually told us North Antrim would be a focus for job creation. Yet, we have now seen the overlooking of a world leader. A world leader who can deliver faster and cheaper that their rivals. Wrightbus and North Antrim deserve better.”
A similar assessment was given by UKIP’s North Antrim Assembly candidate, Cllr. Donna Anderson slammed a decision as ‘a snub’.
Cllr. Anderson, who represents Ballymena Town on the recently created Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said: “At a time when Ballymena has been devastated by the collapse of the Patton Group and the impending closure of the JTI and Mitchelin plants, it is beyond belief that an Executive based in Northern Ireland would opt to put even more jobs at risk by overlooking the United Kingdom’s premier coachbuilder in favour of a foreign company.”